Following the success of the Scottish International Committee delegation to Brazil in 2017, we have launched an appeal to raise £5,000 for a trade union resource centre there.
The local women from the FERAESP union (Federation of Rural Workers of the State of Sao Paulo) told us that support for building and resourcing a union centre in Descalvado settlement would be incredibly helpful.
UNISON branches are invited to make a donation of £100 (more if you can). If all branches do so, we would easily reach the target.
Click here or on the graphic for a donation form which also has further information about the visit to Sao Paulo by Kaila McCulloch and Louise Giblin, International Committee members from Shetland.
The centre, as well as helping organise the union and community in Descalvado, would be a base to bring in FERAESP members and potential members from a wider area. Women are already central to the occupation movement and are active in FERAESP but don’t tend to fill leadership positions in the union. It is intended a specific strand of the union centre’s work will be on supporting women’s self organisation within FERAESP.
It would be hoped that there will be opportunities for the UNISON Scotland Women’s Committee to be part of this work. The centre would also be a place for selling their produce/goods and would help bring greater organisation to their enterprise. Please ask your branch to donate.
In June 2017 Kaila McCulloch and Louise Giblin, both members of the International Committee and both UNISON members living in Shetland went on a delegation to the State of Sao Paulo in Brazil. The delegation came about via contact between UNISON Scotland and the Human Resource Management Department of the University of Strathclyde. Dr Brian Garvey and colleagues at the university have built up links with the University of Sao Paulo and through them FERAESP (Federation of Rural Workers of the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil). See their blog of the field trip here.
Louise & Kaila both have strong environmental backgrounds, Louise as an Environment Protection Officer, for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Kaila has studied Sustainable Rural Development. The committee felt they were ideal candidates.
FERAESP has supported workers and their families to occupy unutilised land in Sao Paulo. Under the Brazilian constitution land has a social purpose so there is a process that can be gone through to ultimately legitimately occupy and use unproductive land. The land that is occupied tends to be remote and off grid – not just from electricity but from water, sanitation and public services.
FERAESP and the occupy movements establish communities and public services in these communities. Part of the work of Strathclyde University has been the Civil Engineering Department working with these communities to look at viable environmental solutions to energy production.
FERAESP represents and organises agricultural labourers who face a number of profound challenges. Firstly, there has been a huge shift in Brazilian agriculture from food production to bio fuel production. Bio fuels mean monoculture and the method of cultivating consumes huge quantities of agrochemicals. These chemicals pollute the land and damage the workers. Larissa Bombardi an academic at Sao Paulo University who works with FERAESP and Strathclyde University has tracked the causal relationship of agrochemical use to increased infant deaths, suicides and a range of other detrimental impacts. There is much FERAESP could learn from Scotland’s approach to environmental protection of water and soil. Louise has already being assisting Larissa in her research.
Another impact of bio fuel production is that Brazil used to be a net exporter of foodstuffs but it is now an importer due to the huge swathes of land given over to growing sugar cane. FERAESP is also grappling with the impact of automation; much work is being replaced by machines. Another problem is precarious work, the workers are at the end of the global supply change and work is impacted by the price of oil and the market for ethanol and other bio fuels. The occupations Kaila and Louise visited had established organic food production, both to feed their own communities nutritious food but also to sell to raise funds. The people in the occupations are predominantly agricultural workers who are unemployed due to issues such as automation, the precarious nature of agricultural work and hostility to trade union members.
The aims for the delegation were significantly covered and advanced, including on supporting work and sharing experience on building sustainable communities, on union responses to changes in fuel production and climate change, on food production and food safety and the impact of free trade agreements, on our vision of public services in a globalised world, public sector safe water and sanitation, and on trade justice and international solidarity and partnership. There has been considerable subsequent discussion and contact. We were delighted to host colleagues from FERAESP at the joint regional international seminar in Liverpool in September 2017 and we look forward to building on these links including with UNISON national colleagues and FERAESP to develop a wider and deeper partnership focussing on building responses to automation, global supply chains, women’s self organisation and responses to neo liberal trade agendas.
Louise and Kaila’s blog: https://unison-scotland.org/brazil-blog/